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Full text of "NightRider"

374

was mud caked on her legs—hit was a cow—and new-caked
I cut open her stomach, and thar was the water she'd drunk.
And I supped ever drop. And hit give me strength to go on.
The way she'd come from, whar the water was. The Canadian
River, hit was, and nigh dry. A man don't know how the
dry country is. But even here ain't ever man got him a
spring come-en nigh outer the top of a hill, lak me, and fall-en
so he kin lay and hear hit. Nor ever man got him a cold-air
cave to keep his milk sweet to his mouth. Hit's a feature."

He had built his house right at the creek bank, with the
little branch from the falls running into the creek just behind
it. And the cave, where the moisture dripped from the green,
pelt-thick moss, was at the foot of the bluff just beside the
house. Inside the cave, in the chill shadow, the crock jars of
milk stood in rows. Willie Proudfit's wife would set her
candle on a shelf of stone, for even at noon the candle was
needed, and dip the milk with a tin dipper and pour it into
her big, blue pitcher. Then, from another crock, she would
take a pat of butter. Holding the heavy pitcher in one hand,
but out from her body strongly and easily, she would move
across the patch of young grass toward the house. She would
set it on the table, by her husband's plate, and smile. "Willie,
now he's the beatenest," she would say, " fer milk."

" Now I thank you," he might say, and pick up the pitcher;
or he might only look up at her, not quite smiling, and say
nothing, for he was not a man to talk much except on those
infrequent evenings when, lying stretched out like a cat on
the boards of the little porch, he would reach back into his
mind for some incident out of those years he had spent on
the plains. He would tell it, not exactly for them, it seemed,
but for the telling, speaking slowly and tentatively.. Reach-
ing back into these past times, he was like a man who, in a
dark closet, runs his fingers over some once-familiar object
and tries, uncertainly, to identify it. "They's a passel of
things," he would say, " on God's earth fer a man to study
a-bout, and ain't no man e'er seen 'em all. But I seen some.
I seen gullies so deep and wide, you could throw that-air hill